Visiting Portugal: Porto & The Douro
Portugal is quickly becoming the next destination for great valued European travel. For wine lovers, visiting Portugal is remarkable because the vineyards haven’t changed for nearly 2000 years.
In fact, the Douro is a protected UNESCO world site . The famous wine of the region, Port, offers some of the most amazing values for collectible wine on the market.
Go to Porto for the Food & Drink
Eat The Food
Try Bacalhau The iconic food of Portugal is a white flaky salted cod called Bacalhau. The best bacalhau we tried was at Shis, a restaurant in Foz do Douro (Foz is the point where the Douro meets the Atlantic Ocean). The fish was rehydrated and seared, a technique that makes the fish light and flaky with the perfect amount of salinity.
Mystery Meats The traditional foods of Portugal are very rustic. Don’t be surprised if you order stew and you see something that looks like a snout and knuckles in it. Popular meats include bacalhau, enchido (a relatively firm and delicious herbed/spiced pork sausage) as well as large chicken-like-tasting octopus tentacles. It is very common to be served potatos, rice and a salad with tomato and lettuce with a meal. Prior to the main meal, there are usually Portuguese cheeses, bread, almonds, olive oil and blood sausage.
Vegetarian Dish Another common and completely vegetarian dish in Portugal is called Caldo Verde, a green cabbage soup. Almost every home around Porto has a cabbage patch, even in the city. The cabbage in Portugal is a little more like kale in color and taste. The soup is very simple, salty and can be thickened with potato. Traditionally Chorizo slices are added on top. If you are a vegetarian going to Portugal, be prepared to eat a lot of bread, cheese and salad. The country is slowly getting up to speed and offering more organic and vegetarian food.
For dessert, no self-respecting Port winemaker is without chocolate pudding. Pudding was brought into the country long ago by English traders.
What to drink
Northern Portugal produces a lot of white wine and dry red wines using the same grapes from Port production. The white wines have a saline bite to them and a fir sap-like greeness. Alvarinho, Rabigato and Viosinho are a few of the unique white wine varieties that you can find along the Douro. There is also quite a bit of Malvasia Fina. Many of the readily available wines are a field blend of grape varieties and are simply referred to as Blanco.
As for dry red wines, most wines are a field blend of the traditional Port wine grapes. Touriga Nacional has become a country-pride red wine varietal. It is so dark, lush and rich it will stain your mouth upon first sip. You won’t regret it.
A common cocktail in Portugal is a White Port and Tonic. It’s a light refreshing drink, worthy of a hot summer’s day.
Into the Douro
The Douro is very bedroomy so it can be difficult to just stumble into things to do without a little foresight. If you are there on a whim, go to Pinhão, there’s enough to do there to get you started as well as some of the best accommodations in the Douro. Another great short trip would be to bounce between Régua and Pinhão by train.
Go for a boat ride
One of the best moments of the trip was taking a boat ride from a riverside Port house and eventually ending up at DOC Restaurant. River taxis are a great way to see the sites as well as avoid having to drive while drinking.
The best views in the Douro
Below is where we shot the high-positioned best views of the Douro for the video above.
View Great View Points in Douro in a larger map